Becoming an Eagle Scout is an achievement that requires dedication, responsibility and leadership. Only about 7 percent of all Boy Scouts earned the Eagle Scout rank in 2012, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.
Two members of local Troop 138 recently reached the highest rank in scouting by becoming Eagle Scouts: Jeff Ellico and Braden Heap.
Scoutmaster Howard Jackson described the process of becoming an Eagle Scout as a journey. When boys first start out as Boy Scouts at age 11 or 12, they learn basic scouting skills such as first aid and outdoor skills. They also memorize the scout oath, law, motto and slogan before earning their Scout patch. Scouts must advance in rank from Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life before working toward the Eagle Scout rank.
When a Scout advances to the Second Class rank, he starts earning merit badges by fulfilling certain requirements. Eagle Scouts must earn 21 merit badges, some of which are required and some of which are elective.
"The requirements are life skills that you need far beyond scouting," Jackson said.
The required badges include first aid, citizenship in the community, nation and world, communications, environmental science or sustainability, personal fitness, camping, family life, personal management, emergency preparedness or lifesaving, and cycling, hiking, or swimming.
Scouts must also serve in a troop leadership position for a period of time before earning the Eagle rank.
Finally, Scouts must complete an Eagle Project that state and national scouting officials must approve.
"They get to demonstrate leadership skills and the things they've learned and provide a big service project to the community," Jackson said.
As their Scoutmaster, Jackson said he is proud of Ellico and Heap for becoming Eagle Scouts.
"It's really neat just like their parents watching them grow," Jackson said, adding that he still has pictures of the two scouts from their earliest camping trips. "To see the progression of Jeff and Braden as they go forward, it's not just to see them grow in scouting, but to see them grow as individuals and from boys to young men."
Ellico, who received the Eagle Scout award May 25, got involved in Cub Scouts when he was about six or seven years old. He said always knew he wanted to work toward becoming an Eagle Scout.
"My dad got his Eagle and I can't let dad show me up," Ellico said, adding that his dad talked about how the lessons learned from scouting can be beneficial in life.
Ellico also said the fact that only a small percentage of scouts become Eagle Scouts motivated him.
"Then it was a challenge," he said. "It's not something everybody does. It's something that's a little more meaningful to you."
Ellico's Eagle Project involved putting up a flagpole at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Williams, which sponsors Troop 138.
Ellico said he decided on his Eagle Project for two reasons.
"First and foremost is that all of the churches have flagpoles. And the fact that our building didn't have one was just strange, it was like something was missing," he said.
In addition, the troop meets at the church and must learn how to do a flag ceremony.
"So then we'd have to go track down somebody's house where they had a flagpole," Ellico said. "It just didn't make sense for the scouts' place of meeting to not have the stuff to teach the scouts."
To complete his project, Ellico talked with the bishop to determine a good location for the flagpole. The flagpole itself came in two pieces that had to be assembled. After workers dug the hole, APS employees used a bucket truck to lift the pole in place. A combination of concrete and self-expanding foam secured the pole. Once the material dried, workers poured a cement slab around the base.
Ellico said his Eagle Project required a great deal of preparation.
"You have to document all of your planning stages, document your blueprints, take pictures of everything before, and that's what you submit to the council to get approved," he said.
Ellico said his involvement in scouting has taught him perseverance and responsibility.
The scouts learn responsibility through playing an active role in planning and executing their activities, Ellico said.
"It was also a pretty good place to mess up in that respect too because if you goofed up one of your responsibilities for the activity, then you didn't get bacon with breakfast," he said. "So it was a good way to learn those leadership qualities without getting fired from your job or having a major impact."
Perseverance came into play because of the opinions of some of Ellico's peers regarding scouting.
"You have to be mature enough to look at the program and see what the program is good for, see what you're learning from it, see the benefit of it and just persevere through anything that tries to get in the way," he said.
Ellico graduated from Williams High School this past spring. In the coming weeks he leaves for Cincinnati, Ohio where he'll serve as a missionary for the church for two years. After that, he plans to attend college.
"What for I couldn't tell you, I have too many ideas," he said.
Heap received the Eagle Scout award Nov. 13. After starting out in Cub Scouts at age six or seven, Heap said becoming an Eagle Scout was always a goal.
"I always wanted to get the highest," he said.
For his Eagle Project, Heap worked with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to build a rehabilitation flight cage in Flagstaff for songbirds.
"So if there were any songbirds that had lost their mothers when they were babies or gotten sick or just injured, Game and Fish would work with these little birds and use this cage to teach them how to fly again, whereas before they would have to transport the birds down to Phoenix," he said.
Heap decided on his Eagle Project after receiving some suggestions from a former scout.
"I think one of the big things for me when I chose that was I want to be a pilot when I grow up, so flying's already sort of interesting to me," he said. "And then I have the bird study merit badge, and that was one of my favorites. So when I saw I could work with little songbirds and build something for them to get healthy again, I thought that was a really neat idea to do."
Heap solicited donations from local businesses to complete the project. The flight cage is about 12 feet by 12 feet by 10 feet and made of wood planks with wire screening.
"It had to have specific designs like special wiring for the birds so they couldn't get through but that they wouldn't hurt themselves and they had to have roofing on one side just to keep it comfortable for the birds," Heap explained.
A woman who works with the Arizona Game and Fish Department nurses the sick and injured songbirds back to health. When they are healthy enough, the birds live in the cage while relearning how to fly. Since Heap completed his project, five baby tree sparrows were released back into the wild.
One of the most important things Heap has learned during his time in scouting is being a leader.
"Holding leadership positions in the troop is one of the main requirements as you advance from rank to rank, and learning how to deal with different situations and different boys of different ages and arranging stuff with older adults is something different that I hadn't been used to doing," he said, adding that those leadership skills will be helpful in the future.
Heap is a sophomore this year at Williams High School. He hopes to become a pilot, although he isn't sure what kind he'd like to be. For now he just knows he wants to do "something that puts me in the air."